West Coast Biotech Roundup: Affymax, K2, Roche/Stratos, & More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

It’s BIO week, and later on we’ll post a separate roundup of news and notes from our perambulations around the biotech industry’s largest annual convention. But beyond the networking, panels, parties, and boldface names gathered in San Diego, there was plenty of other news up and down the West Coast: new San Diego biotechs with rounds of funding large and small; an investment from Roche for Seattle-based Stratos Genomics; a new Bay Area trade group; and the end of Affymax. Let’s dive in.

—From FDA approval to dissolution in two years, Affymax (OTC: AFFY) said Wednesday it would wind down operations if shareholders approve. With partner Takeda Pharmaceutical, Affymax won the FDA’s green light in March 2012 for peginesatide (Omontys), an anemia treatment for patients on dialysis for chronic kidney disease. It was soon pulled off the market because of fatal allergic reactions. Affymax, of Cupertino, CA, said this week that its partner Takeda was not able to pinpoint the cause of the reactions, dealing Affymax what seems to be a final blow.

—Former Trius Therapeutics CEO Jeff Stein has taken the helm at a new San Diego biotech that has raised more than $30 million of a planned $42.7 million round of equity funding. The startup is developing new drugs for treating life-threatening invasive fungal infections. The company, founded in Boston in 2012 as K2 Therapeutics, is undergoing a name change. More information will be released next week, Stein said.

—Seattle’s Immune Design filed its intent to go public on Monday. The firm is developing immune-stimulating drugs to fight cancer, with Phase 1 and preclinical candidates in its pipeline. Four venture firms—Alta Partners, Versant Ventures, The Column Group, and ProQuest Investments—own more than 80 percent of the company’s shares.

—A new San Diego biotech, Oxeia Biopharmaceuticals, has raised $310,000 from investors, according to a regulatory filing. Information about Oxeia’s business focus was not immediately available. Oxeia was founded earlier this year by Kartik Shah, a business development executive at Cynvenio Biosystems, and Amit Munshi, the CEO of Boston’s Epirus Biopharmaceuticals. Munshi also is on Cynvenio’s board of directors.

—Through its Pleasanton, CA-based sequencing unit, the Swiss giant Roche has put cash into Seattle’s Stratos Genomics to help develop Stratos’s nanopore sequencing technology, which aims for highly sensitive DNA analysis by screening single molecules. The size of Roche’s investment in Stratos, which is part of the Stratos Group, was not disclosed. The deal follows Roche’s $125 million upfront purchase of another nanopore sequencing technology firm, Genia Technologies, earlier this month, as Xconomy reported.

—San Diego-based Taxus Cardium (OTC: CRXM), known until March as Cardium Therapeutics, said interim Phase 3 data from its gene therapy treatment showed significantly improved blood flow to the heart. The company, whose shares used to trade on the New York Stock Exchange, reported interim results of a late-stage, multi-center study that has enrolled over 780 people with coronary artery disease. The company says the degree of improvement was comparable to bypass surgery, angioplasty, and stenting.

—A new biotech trade group launched in the San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday. Anchored by rare-disease firms BioMarin Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: BMRN) and Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ: RARE), the North Bay Life Science Alliance aims to represent the counties north of San Francisco, including Marin, Sonoma, and Solano.

—Bruce Bigelow and Ben Romano contributed to this report.

—“No diving” photo courtesy of Damian Gadal via a Creative Commons license.